Over the next few months Central News reporters are following around North Sydney’s Independent – a grassroots campaign to find a candidate to challenge for the seat of North Sydney at the next election.
Tuesday, August 24, 2021
North Sydney’s Independent quietly announces its search for a candidate is over. So quietly, in fact, few people noticed.
NSI spokesperson Kristen Lock only mentioned the milestone in the closing minutes of a Q&A in a group meeting earlier in the month.
The announcement was made prior to that in the group’s newsletter, although as Lock acknowledged, supporters may have missed it.
We believe the candidate we will have ready in September will beat Trent Zimmerman.
“As those who actually read our newsletter will know, we’re going to announce our candidate in September,” she told the group.
“We believe the candidate we will have ready in September will beat Trent Zimmerman.”
The group has also launched their youth group – North Sydney’s Young Indys – led by university student Aneka Henshaw (since launching last month the group only has three other members).
Henshaw has climate action at the front of her mind and looks forward to seeing the group grow.
“I feel like a lot of things in the world are going wrong right now and it feels like a way to sort of gain some control and be able to actually create effective change and feel like I’m doing something in helping address problems in the world,” Henshaw tells Central News.
In the earlier Q&A with Michael Pascoe, Henshaw had asked Pascoe how young people can best prepare for the future being handed down to them.
“I think to be a young person now, you have to start with the optimism knowing that it can be done, it’s a matter of being prepared to do the work, to have the facts, and to pursue honestly, to pursue integrity and to always punish dishonesty and a lack of integrity,” Pascoe said.
If we get smart independents in, who get that climate is our best hope, in fact, I think it’s our only hope quite frankly.
As he continued he came close to tears: “Nothing should make you more determined to make the future good than to be invested in it with your own kids.
“Our future is there to be more brilliant if we just have the will and the determination to go and bloody well do it.”
Tonight economist Nicki Hutley and senior advisor of the Climate and Energy College Simon Holmes à Court speak at yet another Q&A hosted by NSI.
They discuss the tough realities of climate change and argue how independents can play a key role in taking action.
“If we get smart independents in, who get that climate is our best hope, in fact, I think it’s our only hope quite frankly, to get meaningful action on climate change,” Hutley says.
“If we flip three blue seats to independents… we wake up the morning after the election in a different country,” Holmes à Court says.
The group is yet to set the date they will reveal their chosen candidate, but have confirmed it will be sometime next month.
Main photo of Aneka Henshaw, acting leader of North Sydney’s Young Indys, supplied.
LOCKDOWN FORCES CAMPAIGNERS TO RETREAT FROM THE PUB
Tuesday, July 20, 2021
North Sydney’s Independent (NSI) takes an unscheduled and disappointing break from daytime drinking as the pubs that once hosted the groups gatherings remain closed during lockdown.
The group instead comes together online joined by former and current Independent MPs Cathy McGowan and Zali Steggall in a bid to maintain campaign momentum, and make drinking at home feel a bit more sociable.
I don’t think we’re ever going to have an opportunity as good as this, where the government is so poor and the opposition is so weak.
McGowan and Steggall respond to questions and discuss campaign tactics, climate action and party politics in Zoom Q&A sessions.
“Can you imagine in 12 months’ time when you’ve won… I don’t think we’re ever going to have an opportunity as good as this, where the government is so poor and the opposition is so weak, to really get some quality members of parliament in,” McGowan says.
McGowan won the rural Victorian seat of Indi in 2014, an electorate previously seen as a Conservative stronghold, by just 431 votes. She retired from politics in 2019 and is keen to see NSI follow in her footsteps.
Steggall won the seat of Warringah in 2019, defeating former Prime Minister Tony Abbott through grassroots community action that NSI hopes to emulate. When she entered politics she vowed to be a force for climate action.
“I came to politics, I left my career as a barrister, because I felt that I could simply not sit on the sidelines any longer, feeling unrepresented by my member at the time and feeling really dissatisfied to what he was doing to our environmental policies and our climate change policies,” Steggall says.
Steggall discusses her climate change bill that aims to establish an independent climate change commission and reduce emissions. The bill was recently rejected.
North Sydney Liberal MP Trent Zimmerman reaffirmed his support for net-zero by 2050 but was not willing to support Steggall’s recommendations.
“There is a level of hypocrisy, to have the stated support for net-zero by 2050 and climate action, but not really be willing to vote for constructive steps that would make a difference,” says Steggall.
Fiercely independent, Steggall and McGowan are both strong critics of party politics.
I’d always ask myself what I thought was right, that was always my bottom line, then what’s best for my community and then what’s best for the country after that.
“It’s a very hard decision for those party people to make, to always vote in support of the party. I am really interested to have that conversation, where in their own conscience would they not?
“Every vote we make [as independents] is a conscience vote. I’d always ask myself what I thought was right, that was always my bottom line, then what’s best for my community and then what’s best for the country after that,” says McGowan.
NSI spokesperson Kristen Lock says that whilst lockdown has been challenging it has driven an emphasis on online campaigning that has seen the groups’ supporter base grow beyond the electorate.
Sixty viewers attended last week’s Zoom meeting with McGowan. Tonight Steggall was joined by a crowd of 100.
“We have been able to focus more energy into the online space instead which has grown our skills and capacity online,” says Lock.
“Zali and Cathy are amazing. Their voices are inspiring and enlightening to hear from. Hearing from them helps our supporters, potential candidates and future supporters quickly recognise and understand the type of representation we are seeking and contrast that with the type of representation we are currently getting with our LNP Party member,” says Lock.
Lock hopes to get back out in the community and into the pub as soon as possible.
Main image: Forced out of the pub campaigners for a North Sydney independent take to Zoom (screenshot).
CANDIDATE CAMPAIGN CONSCIOUS OF YOUNGER VOTERS
Sunday, June 20, 2021: The Blues Point Hotel feels a tad busier than usual for 4pm Sunday as North Sydney’s Independent gathers for its first monthly booze-up and chat.
Latecomers Katherine Bennett (32) and her partner Matt Holihan (28) reduce the average age of the crowd significantly. “More young people!” they say as we approach them before sitting down to chat.
Bennett doesn’t seem deterred by a lack of other supporters her age and is hopeful the group will be able to engage young people that she says are often disengaged from politics.
“I think there are a lot of people my age or younger that think this is important but are also incredibly apathetic to in regards to voting,” she says.
If I can be part of something that might actually have a tangible result at the end and aligns with the values I have, why not give it a go
Most supporters of the group are either friends of friends or from the community group Voices of North Sydney. People under 40 are a demographic the group admits is hard to connect with.
“We’re trying to make a plan… we’ll see how these plans go,” Bennett says, hoping more pub get-togethers will draw a younger crowd over time.
“If I can be part of something that might actually have a tangible result at the end and aligns with the values I have, why not give it a go,” she added.
The group’s spokesperson Kristen Lock says that it may take some time before an Independent is chosen by the community, adding it’s a big ask of an individual to run as an Independent. Once a candidate has been announced the group expects support will grow rapidly.
With a full-page ad in the North Shore Times and Lock appearing in an interview for 7.30 on The ABC, momentum appears to be building. Lock hints that some hands have already been raised to represent the electorate, but wasn’t ready to reveal who potential candidates may be.
Additional reporting by Katelyn Milligan
GRASSROOTS POLITICAL MOVEMENT SENDING A MESSAGE TO CANBERRA
Sunday, June 6, 2021: And so, this is how it begins, no candidate, a bunch of people standing around talking over beers, upstairs at the Crowsnest Hotel.
At the pub the search is launched for an independent candidate willing to take on sitting North Sydney Liberal Party MP Trent Zimmerman in the next federal election.
North Sydney’s Independent launched its campaign on Sunday to bring the community together and find a candidate. The newly formed group has a strong focus on climate change and energy policy, gender equality and corruption in government.
Spokesperson of the group is local mother of two, former nurse and public health researcher, Kristen Lock. Amongst the excitement of the launch we managed to talk to Lock in the quiet of the smokers to find why she decided to launch the campaign.
The community starts talking, we start building connections, and we start connecting with each other to create something that is bigger than the sum of us.
Unphased by her inexperience she says she’s doing it for her kids who are “looking down the gun barrel of climate change”, and that Trent Zimmerman’s time is up after holding the seat for six years.
“He said all the right stuff, but then he voted the other way,” Lock says.
“The fact that he’s had six years and we have ended up with no electric vehicle policy, no climate action policy, no energy strategy, tells you it’s not going anywhere.”
Inspired by Zali Steggall’s 2019 win against Tony Abbott in Warringah, the campaign aims to build community support to find a suitable candidate.
“The community starts talking, we start building connections, and we start connecting with each other to create something that is bigger than the sum of us,” Ms Lock says.
North Sydney is among the most educated electorates in the country… I think with that sort of calibre of population I’m sure we will find someone strong, someone capable.
The group is critical of party dominated politics and calls for a revival of democracy through elected independents.
“The parties have a particular problem in their structure… you need to be a yes man or woman to move up, that means you need to say what people (the parties) want to hear and vote the way people (the parties) want you to vote,” Lock says.
The ‘father of independents’ Ted Mack was the last independent to hold the seat, holding it for six years until 1996. The group says that with a proud history of independents in the area they are confident they will find the right candidate.
“North Sydney is among the most educated electorates in the country… I think with that sort of calibre of population I’m sure we will find someone strong, someone capable,” Ms Lock says.
As of now, North Sydney’s Independent could not confirm when they would gather next. But, after wrapping up with a group photo Ms Lock and her team assured us this is just the beginning.